The first phrase Eryk Williamson thought of to describe No. 5 T.C. Williams’s 2-1 come-from-behind overtime win Friday against McLean was “Cinderella story.” But that didn’t quite fit. The Titans were no underdog, even against a resurgent Highlanders squad. Their appearance in the Virginia 6A North region quarterfinal was no surprise, and they were playing on their home turf in Alexandria.
Williamson called over striker Akable Wilson Miezan for another opinion. “Breakthrough,” Miezan offered, and Williamson agreed that it was the perfect description on two levels. The Titans had finally broken through in the region tournament after losing in this same quarterfinal round in each of the last two seasons.
And T.C. Williams (15-2) had spent the better part of regulation Friday fighting to break through the McLean defense and goalie Jake Huber until Williamson’s late goals saved them.
With 20 seconds remaining in regulation, the junior midfielder drew Huber out of his net and tucked the ball into an empty goal for the late equalizer.
“I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but I knew there was one person on me to draw out,” Williamson said. “I knew that this was my chance to keep our season alive.”
Williamson’s game-winner came midway through the first overtime period when he found himself directly in front of the McLean goal and surrounded by a mass of red Highlander jerseys. He dribbled around them and sent a perfectly placed shot past Huber for the decisive goal.
The Titans started slowly and fell behind when McLean sophomore Howard Charles headed the ball in to put the Highlanders (9-6-4) up with just less than 27 minutes remaining in the first half.
That was the first jolt to get T.C. Williams awake and running, Miezan said, but the best chances didn’t come until the last 15 minutes of the first half. Twice Williamson was alone in the box with Huber, and twice the McLean senior made improbable saves to keep the Titans scoreless.
The second half brought more close calls. Huber stopped Williamson’s penalty kick with a diving save in the 18th minute and over the ensuing five minutes, two more Titans shots sailed just over or wide of the posts.
“There was a time there, after three or four went right over and we were getting tired and it didn’t look good,” Williamson said.
Chance after chance came and went until there was less than half a minute left and a win looked improbable, even with the intensity building on T.C. Williams’s side. The bench, which had looked reserved in the first half, was tearing up the Titans sideline. A fan base, which spent most of the game focused on questioning calls, was on its feet willing the season to continue.
Williamson finally found the back of the net to extend the game, and with it, the season.
“When he scored that first goal, it was crazy,” Miezan said. “I thought we were about to lose. It was a big relief.”
T.C. Williams will play Battlefield in Tuesday’s semifinals.